Hello kind krafters,
As you may know from my last few blog posts, I spend a lot of time outdoors. For me, the outdoors is my happy place. It’s where I am most content, most relaxed, least self-conscious, and least anxious. It’s where I go when I’m upset, confused, overwhelmed, and excited. And it’s also where I spend a lot of time alone by myself.
This started back a few years ago, in my second year of university. I moved out of my childhood home a half hour outside of the city, and into an apartment close to school. The change was a little jarring, made worse by a bed bug scare and eventually having to leave the building after it was deemed unfit for residents post flooding from a flash freeze. During this time I dealt with a lot of discomfort and insecurity, while at the same time experiencing a flood of independence. I needed a way to boost my mood and push myself out of the pattern of only doing school work and sitting on my apartment couch, or going home all weekend, only to return to an apartment I needed to clean, clothes I had to unpack, and school work I needed to finish. So I made a New Year’s resolution to spend more time outside, and capped it off by waking myself up at 5am to head to Point Pleasant Park and watch the sunrise on the beach. That morning was the beginning of my love for nature, and my quest to spend as much of my time free and happy within its beauty as I possibly can.
The first 5am sunrise on the beach
Alongside of this new found love, came the difficulty of always being able to find a friend or family member to trek into the woods in the snow or cold or early morning or muggy day with me. Meaning that I was increasingly faced with the question or do I go alone or do I just not go at all. Early on I knew that the choice of not going at all wouldn’t work out in the long run. Nature made me happier, it made me feel better and look better, easing some of my self-conscious thoughts and anxieties. So I went alone.
For years I now I have go into the woods alone on a regular basis, hiking on weekends or in short spurts after work or classes, or waking up early to stand-up-paddle alone in the early hours of summer days. Most of my weekends throughout the year are spent hiking, and majority of the time I do it alone. If a friend or family member can come I’m happy to have the company. But if they can’t, I don’t allow it to deter my plans.
Sometimes I bring dogs with me (photo by John Flewelling)
I was raised not to let myself think that being a woman meant I could do less or be less. So when I decided to start going into the wild alone, I never felt it was something I could not and should not do. The generally assumed limitations society often sees as imposed by my gender were not something I was born with nor raised to believe. They were something taught to me by an outside world, that I have always struggled, and mostly succeeded, to refuse to accept.
When I go into the woods by myself I don’t see it as an admirable act or something inspiring, because I don’t see my ability to be alone outside as any different from that of a man or another woman. Being a woman, and even being a tiny woman, does not make me incapable or less able to be outside by myself.
Sea kayaking in Terrance Bay, another favorite adventure activity (photo by Jess Severeyns)
But I also know that it is something that it is not always seen that way. When I pass people alone on the trail I often get concerned and interested looks. When I camp alone I always see a pause before a reaction when I tell people I am a party of one. In Cape Breton when I told the attendants I was alone, I got a concerned “Oh” and was given a lovely camp spot that was both open and close to the family sites and secluded enough to give me privacy. In Prince Edward Island, I was told to be safe and drive safe by park attendants. I met an older man with children my age who told me how worried he was when his daughter was alone, then offered his empty trailer for me to stay in if I got rained out over the weekend. In all of my experiences alone in the outdoors, I have never felt so uncomfortable or endangered that I didn’t know what to do or how to get turn around and head back to my car. I have never been threatened or harmed. I have always received kindness, even if laced with concern and uncertainty for my safety and ability to stay safe.
My solo camp sites in Cape Breton Highlands National Park and Prince Edward Island National Park
I am grateful for my experiences and understand not every woman feels the same, nor is it guaranteed I always will. But I know that my ability to be alone outside, to have these experiences in nature, is not lesser because I am a woman, nor should it be viewed as less of a possibility. Being a woman does not mean I cannot camp alone, hike alone, backpack alone, or be alone. It does not mean I need extra care and concern when it comes to choosing my campsite or staying dry in my tent when it rains. My outdoor adventures require as much preparation, knowledge, and skill as any other person. I still carry a couple of knives in case of animals and for opening my food at camp. I still have to set up my tarps properly to keep my tent dry. I still sometimes can’t get my fire started, or bring too little water on a hike, because, like everyone, I am still constantly learning and making mistakes. And my gender will never determine my ability to continue to learn and thrive in the outdoors, mostly alone and always happy.
Hiking the South Granite Ridge Trail (photo by Nicole Pelletier)
I challenge you all to go for it alone. Take a hike, a bike ride, a camping trip, or go to a movie or a restaurant. Be happy alone with your wonderful and beautiful self, and know that you can do anything you are willing to put the time into understanding and working for.
One Wild Woman <3